FedEx and Netscape Build Shipping Portal

FDX Corp., the parent company of Federal Express, has teamed up with Netscape, now owned by America Online (NYSE: AOL), to create an online shipping portal. On Wednesday, the companies agreed to a multiyear deal to offer a variety of delivery services on Netscape’s Netcenter portal site.

FedEx, the world’s largest air express shipping company, will also use Netscape technology to build a FedEx Internet package shipping portal, which will be called FedEx Custom Netcenter.

The companies say the new services will be available in several months.

Under the terms of the agreement, FedEx will become the default shipping service for all e-commerce transactions on Netcenter, although customers will be able to choose other options.

Other new services offered by Netscape and FedEx will allow business and individuals to get shipping rates, send packages, locate package drop-off points and check the status of packages online. Netscape users will also be able to print shipping labels from their Netscape Contact address book.

“Electronic commerce needs practical and effective services to continue its dramatic growth,” said Dennis Jones, executive vice president for information and logistics services and chief information officer at FDX. “FDX and Netscape will offer leading-edge e-commerce solutions that provide Netcenter members with the muscle needed to operate in a wired global environment.”

Response to UPS?

FedEx’s move comes just two days after competitor United Parcel Service announced a new package of online tools for businesses. The new service, known as UPS Online Tools, is already being used by companies including Micron Electronics. The UPS Web site also already offers many of the services FedEx and Netscape are promising, including tracking, pickup and drop-off information and cost calculation.

But Netscape’s traffic probably trumps UPS’ online initiatives. According to Media Metrix, Netscape was the seventh-most visited Web property in February, with nearly 19 million unique users.

Stock Impact

Shares of FDX closed up 3-5/16 to 102-3/4 after the news on Wednesday. The stock has given back more than a point in early trading today, but it could benefit from its new rating by Merrill Lynch. Today, Merrill Lynch upgraded the stock from neutral to accumulate.

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